Category Archives: Food (makes life worth living)

Healthy Soft Pretzels…mmmm

Now that the weather has cooled, I’m more in the mood for baking. Last week I saw a post that gave me an idea. Soft bread sticks from a Betty Crocker recipe are already in my repertoire. I realized I could use that same recipe to make baked soft pretzels. Plus, I just bought a silicone baking mat and wanted to try it out. The real selling point is that they’re supposed to allow you to roll out doughs without sticking.

I won’t go through all the blow-by-mix instructions because it’s easy enough to find recipes online.

I used 1 1/3 water to dissolve the equivalent of a yeast packet (2.5 teaspoons), a little canola oil, a little honey, 2.5 cups whole wheat flour & 1 cup white flour. And a bit of coarse sea salt to throw over the prepared pretzels prior to baking (although to be honest, I forgot about the salt & hastily pulled the baking sheet back out of the oven just in time to add it 😯). That’s it for ingredients.

Risen dough

The Betty Crocker recipe said to make 24 portions so that’s what I did


After rolling the dough into a skinny strip, I followed pretzel-shaping instructions I found online

Give it a second twist

Then – and this is clever – FOLD the twisted half over so it sits atop the dough


20 baked soft pretzels


The bottom, golden brown

Because I started with 24 little dough balls, I had four leftover that I baked separately on a toaster oven sized pan. That worked out nicely because I promptly ate those four with a bit of hummus. OH-MI-GOD. So good!

I enjoyed using the silicone baking mat; the dough truly didn’t stick and it made the whole process easier. I’m curious how well it’d handle a pie dough. Due to very limited counter space I needed to move the dish drainer somewhere else but didn’t mind. And although I might have thought rolling out & shaping pretzels would be tedious, I found it cathartic. The Zen of Pretzel Making.

Growin’ okra

I’m growing okra of all things. I don’t really get enough sun for vegetable growing. Even if things start out ok, they don’t typically prosper. It had never occurred to me to try growing a modestly obscure vegetable like okra, but someone was giving away seeds and since I do love okra, it wasn’t all that strange an idea. Why not? Why not try to grow okra in the strange, tumultuous year that is 2020? I had low expectations but nothing to lose.

I found a few different spots in the busy yard to tuck in seeds. I removed two bricks from the patio, added dirt, and planted seeds. I put some in pots & some in an unused bed. Well damned if they didn’t grow! And what a pretty plant. I had no idea what they’d look like. Here’s the two plants in the patio in August in front of the permanent black-eyed susans bed.

Then they got beautiful flowers, that each lasted only one day. The flowers alone were worth it. Here’s one from the ground plant & one from a pot.

From the blooms grow the okra pod, one to a bloom. And they grow fast. I harvested 2 and oh yes, I cooked (diced & oven roasted with a little olive oil) and ate my okra, scanty though they were.😀

You have to see how the okra pods grows. Isn’t it wild? Upside down!

The plants are growing tall & a little gawky but when they don’t have enough sun that’s typical. Here’s the patio ones today. I cut down the susans the other day; I don’t like messy, spent flowers.

Yesterday I doubled my “harvest” and picked four okra. My oh my, we feast now.😀 I joke, but I really do think they’re beautiful. And I absolutely want to plant okra seeds next year, if only for the plant itself. You just never know what direction good things might be coming from. Simple, good, happy things like a lovely plant that pleased me daily this summer.

Pasta Salad

With the summer heat still in play, I don’t feel like doing a lot of cooking (and even less baking) but I do it. A pasta salad involves minimal cooking but still lets you get all your nutrients. For this one, I used a whole grain pasta which makes it even healthier. I don’t know about you but while I don’t like long whole grain pasta (spaghetti, etc) I do like it okay in smaller pastas (rotini, etc). I tried whole grain egg noodles once & those were good too.

My philosophy is to make plenty & have it over several days. I don’t get bored because all the additions keep it interesting. As with my big salads, I just see what I have on hand and add ingredients till there’s no more room in the bowl.😊 (This is my biggest bowl; 5″ deep, 10″ diameter. )

Whole grain rotini, 2 cups pre-cooking

Chickpeas, several cups

12  oz cooked frozen cauliflower

2 tomatoes, chopped

Roasted red peppers from jar

Fresh cilantro

Raw sunflower seeds

Can of tuna

Two chopped green onions

Button mushrooms, sliced thin

Feta cheese

Green olives, chopped

Two dill puckles, chopped

Dry dill seasoning

Mix of canola & olive oils

Balsamic vinegar

Summer Salad

Love, love, love salad. I make big-ass bowls of salad for myself all the time. It takes awhile to add all the various ingredients but the results are worth it. I just see what I have on hand & go from there. Basically I add ingredients until I run out of room in the bowl!

Romaine lettuce
Fresh Cilantro
Roma tomato (home grown!)
Chopped marinated red pepper
Sliced Daikon radish
Diced Red onion
6 halved Kalamata olives
Feta cheese crumbles
Oil & vinegar
Fresh ground Black Pepper
Nutritional yeast

(Other ingredient options: Half a can tuna, hard boiled egg, raw sunflower seeds, hearts of palm, artichoke hearts, green peppercorns, capers, sliced button mushrooms, diced green onions, diced dill pickles)

Summer Pizza

It’s been a long time since I put up any food/cooking posts and two years since I last did a homemade pizza post. I make pizza from scratch every week. It’s fantastic.😊 On a whim I’m calling this one I made for lunch today Summer Pizza; it’s got summer ingredients and a bit of heat. I won’t go through the whole step-by-step on how I made this but I’ll tell you what’s on it. I know not everybody wants to use the oven at the end of July but I don’t mind; it’s only on about 15 minutes & I get a feast for my trouble.

I make a combined whole wheat flour & white flour dough, roughly 2/3 to 1/3, with yeast, water & a very modest amount of canola oil. That’s it. It’s in the 90’s outside today and not much cooler in the kitchen, so that dough rose fast!

Toppings: a dash of olive oil, a few small pieces of sliced, sharp cheddar cheese, fresh chopped tomatoes, thin sliced red onion, halved black olives, fresh Basil, diced jalapenos, and salt-free Chili powder. The only salt is whatever salt is in the cheese but it’s not needed.

The key when making a pizza with wet ingredients like chopped tomatoes, is to bake the crust with the olive oil on it for about 5 minutes before adding the vegetables. This forms a “base” so that the moisture doesn’t penetrate the crust & make it soggy. You just have to remember not to bake it the full amount of time after adding toppings (about 10 minutes).

Was it good? OH-MY-GOD.